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'Change Your Life'

Daytime television has long been the domain of soap operas. But last fall, daytime got real with "Starting Over," a reality show that helps women change their lives.

Life coach Rhonda Britten, a guiding force on the show, has written a new book, "Change Your Life in 30 Days," for people who won't get a chance to live in the "Starting Over" house.

Britten visits The Early Show to discuss her new book with co-anchor Julie Chen.

The author says it took her 20 years to find her true self, but readers of "Change Your Life" can discover themselves in 30 days. Britten shares some skills that, she says, will change readers' lives form the ground up.

Read an excerpt from "Change Your Life in 30 Days":

Day 1

A New Beginning

Congratulations. You have decided to embark on a sacred journey to find your true self. By picking up this book you have committed to making dramatic changes in your life in the next 30 days. I'm asking you to dedicate this month to yourself. This is not a selfish act; on the contrary, as you will learn in this book, it is the most unselfish act you can commit.

I believe that we all secretly yearn to make our lives better while being true to our essential self. To take on this task you might need to learn how to say no, create boundaries, give up people-pleasing, speak up, reignite your passion, find your purpose, let go of false friends and make new ones. Or the task might manifest itself in a more concrete way, like finding a dream job, committing to an exercise program, or falling head over heels in love.

For me, being true to myself would include more intangible qualities such as more satisfaction, peace of mind, and self-love. I believe people compromise their dreams too quickly. The truth is you can have it all. You can have the external things you crave while fulfilling your soul's desires if you can answer yes to the following questions:

  1. Are you willing to put personal integrity above a promise to another?
  2. Are you willing to listen to your heart while using your head?
  3. Are you willing to quit lying to yourself in order to start loving yourself?
  4. Are you willing to be authentic even if it means being vulnerable?
  5. Are you willing to invest in the life you have to get the life you want?

If you answered yes, being true to yourself is a top priority. New beginnings can happen only if you are willing to embrace your true self amid the scars of the past and your hopes for the future, while at the same time being truthful about the life you lead now.

Being true to yourself is not an easy task. What does being true to yourself mean? I think it is the essence of life. What other question wakes you up in the middle of the night, forcing you to examine the areas of your life where you have been lying to yourself or to someone else, and, ultimately, letting your soul down?

Stacey, a thirty-four-year-old antiques dealer, knew she wanted to change her life. Wearing a '50s poodle skirt with her matching shoes and handbag, she could hardly sit still as we spoke about her dilemma.

"The antiques store I manage has been in my family for three generations. My whole family works there. My sister travels all over the country but mainly the Midwest, searching for antiques, my brother heads up the refinishing department, and my job is to make the store profitable. My mother and father still work at the store almost every day, even though I am now in charge of all the operations. They keep talking about retiring, but . . ." Stacey's voice trailed off.

"It sounds like you are close with your family. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?" I asked.

"Well, yes and no. I want to change my life but I just didn't know where to start. My life is okay but I want more. I want it to be better. I want it to be great," Stacey quickly explained.

I could tell she had high hopes and was praying that I could help her with her goal. I could. But what she didn't realize was she would have to do most of the work. The work started with a simple question.
"Define great," I asked.

Defining the words you use supports you in your quest for personal integrity. Do you mean what you say, or say something just for the sake of talking? I am always fascinated when a couple comes into my office to talk about love. Rarely have they defined it for themselves, yet they bat the word around and nod their heads as if they understand each other completely. Not me. I had to know her definition before I could help.

"I had never thought of defining great before," she said with an air of uneasiness. She began to fidget with the pen in her hand.

"Defining a word makes it more real," I explained. "It gives the word more weight, more value. If you wanted to have a better life, one that you call 'great,' then you better be willing to define it. So, Stacey, what do you mean by great?"

Stacey leaned toward me and began reciting her list of what would make up a great life. "Well, a great life would be taking more time out for me. I would let myself fall in love. I would live in the mountains near a lake. I wouldn't care if I was perfect anymore. I wouldn't think about work every minute of every day. I would relax more and have more fun. I might even get a dog or cat. And I definitely wouldn't care so much about things that didn't matter. Is that what you meant?" she asked.

I smiled. "Yes, that is a good start," I said. "And what I heard you say is that you want more love and fun in your life. Is that right?"

"Yes." Stacey sighed. "It almost seems selfish to want more, but I am just not as happy as I should be. I know I have a great job and good friends, but I am always running around doing things that I don't want to do. Do you know what I mean?"

Oh, yes. I knew what Stacey meant. People who do a lot of things but with little meaning are an epidemic phenomenon nowadays. It has become a world of "should." Most people come to the Fearless Living Institute for that very reason. They may not say it. But that is what they mean. Stacey was going to be all right.

Ask yourself the same question. You are reading this book to change your life in some way, but do you know which way? The more specific you can get, the more likely you will succeed. Being specific is an act of honesty. Can you be specific without allowing social definitions to get in your way?—or in other words, what you think the definition "should" be? When we get caught in the external trappings of success, our internal life will never be satisfied.

I asked Stacey to answer the following questions. If you want to get the most out of this book, answer them for yourself as well.

Being true to yourself would mean:

If you were true to yourself you could:
If you were true to yourself you would let go of:
For most a better life includes success. To help you determine if success is part of your better or so-called great life, please answer the following:
Define success:
You felt successful when:
You would be more successful if:
What would you need to do to have a successful life?
What would you have to let go of?

Knowing what you mean when you describe your "great" life is critical to understanding what you want and, more important, why you get disappointed, stopped, frustrated, and overwhelmed. Why you almost get there but rarely meet the mark. Why your dreams, at times, feel so close yet so far away. Definitions tell you what you believe, who you are, and what you think you are capable of. They indicate whether you trust yourself or are insecure. Do you have faith in what you want or do you waver and write down the safe choice?

Notice how you feel or what you think when you are asked to define a word. Do you want to grab a dictionary to make sure you have the "right" answer? Do you want to poll your friends? Do you go blank? Do you write down the first thing that comes to you? Is it easy or hard? This is valuable to know because it's showing you how you process information. That's important. We will talk more about that later. Just note what you think or feel when you are answering the questions throughout this book.

It always amazes me how one simple question and one simple answer can speak volumes about a person's belief in herself. Look at your answer. Does it put a smile on your face? Do you want to change it? Are you satisfied with your reply? Were you clear and thorough? If someone read your answer, like your fairy godmother, would she know exactly how to make your dreams come true?

Stacey had a hard time separating her family's expectations from her own desires. It had been a given that Stacey would work in the family business ever since she was born. Stacey liked it well enough, but she didn't feel like she ever had a chance to make her own decisions. The traditions handed down from one generation to the next defined her family life and the business. Stacey felt she had no place to be Stacey.

"I know my parents want me to be happy," she explained, "but they also want the store to be my life. I don't think I want the store to be my life. I do want to make them happy, but when is it my turn to make myself happy? To be honest, I don't even know what that would mean. I don't know what to do. It is so confusing."

Stacey was having a difficult time weighing her parents' wants against her own needs, so I decided to shake things up. "Do you want to quit your job?" I asked.

When you answer a question like this, check the authenticity of your reply by asking yourself the following question. I asked Stacey to repeat it until she was sure she was answering the question from her own internal guidance.

Who am I being when I am answering this question?

Stacey answered the question quickly. "No, of course I don't want to quit. I couldn't. It is a family business and I am part of the family." The answer was too pat, too logical, to be from her true self. She realized she was being her mother. "I know my answer was what my mother would say. She has been afraid for years to leave the store. She has told me several times that when she married my dad, she knew she was marrying the store."

When fear is running your life, you will not be true to yourself. It takes vigilance and an honest commitment to move you from the life you have to the life you want. But being true to yourself is the key that will get you there. You must answer every question with the truth. Fear wants our answers to be neat and pretty; freedom doesn't care if the truth is messy.

I asked her again. "Do you want to quit your job?"

"I don't know. It is a great job and I am running a business at thirty-four years old. My parents trust me. Where else could I get a job with so much responsibility that included ownership? And it is a real honor to be part of a tradition like our store has been to so many families for generations."

This time around she found herself putting down the "right" words, the ones that made her feel smart, enlightened, and impressive. She answered it like the perfect daughter. Stacey was an expert at rationalizing.

I asked her again. "Do you want to quit your job?"

"No, not really. But I can't work the way I have been either. I am tired. I want to have a life outside the store, outside my family." Finally, she had found her own answer. It wasn't nice and neat. It was a little bit messy.

A better life for Stacey would include taking time out for herself. Joining a sailing club and not going home for every single birthday and holiday was going to be a start. She wanted to create her own traditions with her group of close-knit friends. She also wanted to wake up happy to be alive.

Seems simple enough, but talking about it and doing it are two different things. What would Stacey have to do to change her life? Leave work early or not come in one or two days a week would be a good place to begin. She could sign up for sailing lessons. What about the holidays? She could tell her family no, and for most folks, especially a family as close as Stacey's, that wouldn't be easy. It might seem silly to want to wake up happy, but it would mean dealing with her problems head-on rather than avoiding them. Simple answers reveal true, deep desires that will fundamentally change your life.

Are you truthful? Are these your dreams of a better life? Is this new life attainable if you are willing to risk everything? If you could have everything you described, would you be happy? Have you earned it? Are you worth it?

Now, think about your answers one more time. This is your final opportunity to determine if this is the life you desire above all else. I will be giving you some key ingredients to activate your answers and turn them into reality.

Is that it?

Fantastic. Thank you for having the courage to face your first difficult task: telling the truth about "great life" and "success." I understand how hard it can be to answer a straightforward question, especially when we have been hurt, disappointed, and frustrated in the past. The fact that you did answer the questions to the best of your ability proves to me you are ready to have a "better" life.

Make sure you get support over the next 30 days. Take a minute to think of a friend or family member who could support you during this journey. Will they tell you the truth? Is he or she a good cheerleader? For instance, are the following words in their vocabulary: "Yes! Go for it! I knew you could do it! You are amazing."

No one can be fearless alone. It takes courage to reach out and ask for help. Do it. It is Day One and it is time for you to take the first step toward finding your true self.

The days ahead will give you the skills and tools to be true to yourself more and more each day. Your future is unfolding already. Get ready for a ride.

Reprinted from Change Your Life in 30 Days by Rhonda Britten by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2004 by Rhonda Britten. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.